Training to Care
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
Conditioning is a process by which someone trains and develops the mental and/or physical endurance to face a challenge. Intellectually, we take night courses and Internet classes, pursue college degrees, and continuing education credits to better equip us in our respective professions. We run, lift weights, and stretch to participate in a marathon or to improve our physical condition.
Spiritual conditioning is a part of life as well. Each week, our pastor reminds us of the damning nature of sin and the rescue we have through faith in Christ. Through regular exposure to God’s Word we become conditioned to face the challenge of living in a world opposed to the things of God.
One form of training that seems to be less common but ever so important is the training to care for others. It has been supplanted with a glorification of self: self-esteem, narcissism, self-accomplishments, and self-indulgence. We train ourselves to become more competitive, earn bigger paychecks, or gain popularity – but generally not care for others.
Within the Christian faith, concern for such social needs as caring for others is not the beginning of faith but the result of faith (James 2:14-26). Caring does not create faith nor save one’s soul. Rather, it is the matured response to the realization of the sacrifice made to save us from our sins. Caring is the result of a faith that matures and grows (Ephesians 4:11-13; Hebrews 6:1-2).
That being said, training ourselves and our children to be caring is a twofold Biblical pursuit. First, because it is rooted in faith, it requires us to consider the foundation of our faith, the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. In that sacrifice we witness and become the direct beneficiaries of the perfect example of caring. The Bible tells us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ ” (Romans 5:8).
Think about that for a moment. God is perfect, yet sinning is the antithesis to perfection. We know from Scripture that God is repulsed by imperfection (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 8:8). Now, carry this through logically. Our perfect God sent His Son to suffer and die for us who are repulsive because of our sins. This act of love demonstrates perfect love, perfect commitment, and perfect care for us.
But there is more. God promises to watch over us (Luke 12:6-7), care for us (Matthew 6:25-34), and guide events in our lives to ultimately benefit us (Romans 8:28).
As people of faith we look to the sacrifice of Jesus as the perfect example of love and caring. That leads us to the second Biblical pursuit: converting faith in action.
As the message of salvation grows and is nurtured in each of us, we mature and eventually face this challenge: “Can I be any less loving towards others?” (Matthew 10:8; 18:21-35; 2 Corinthians 1:3,4). Jesus referenced this in his description of Judgment Day in which He emphasized love shown love to others as the testimony of a living faith (Matthew 25:31-46).
Christian maturity that increases a desire to care for others is counter-intuitive to the world. Jesus once said, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). It is an uphill battle. All of us get caught in it. We get so busy and committed with the things of this world that when the time comes for us to care for others we don’t know what to do.
Even if our children are on today’s path of self-absorption it is not too late. Even if we find ourselves committed to a lifestyle not conducive to caring for others, we can change. It involves conditioning! To run a long-distance marathon we do not start training by running 26-plus miles. We must work up to it.
Start by pondering the words of Paul to the Philippians where he writes: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5).
Think about each word and ask yourself what it means for you, the way you live, and the way you can care for others. Then, look for caring opportunities. It may be watching over your parents or grandparents. Perhaps it might involve visiting friends and family (or even strangers) who reside in a nursing home. Begin with baby steps, then grow in your concern and activity.
Remember that you are in training. Your goal is to perfectly reflect God’s care for you (Philippians 3:12). Learn to see where you can help others. Consider how you can help others. And finally, as your faith matures, do it.
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